Definitely go to a local user group. In particular, get a good mentor to help you learn. With the sheer volume of what you have to learn, a mentor will be a necessity. He/She would also make a great reference for your job application :-) ... and that will be absolutely critical for you as well given that you will not have work experience in this field.
You are certainly taking a thoughtful and serious approach to this. Congratulations on that, and the very best of luck in your search!
SQL DBA,SQL Server MVP(07, 08, 09)[size=2]Prosecutor James Blackburn, in closing argument in the Fatal Vision murders trial: If in the future, you should cry a tear, cry one for them [the murder victims]. If in the future, you should say a prayer, say one for them. And if in the future, you should light a candle, light one for them.[/size]